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Philippines expands travel ban to limit spread of new COVID-19 virus strain

Philippines expands travel ban to limit spread of new COVID-19 virus strain

Staff at the airport in Manila were wearing protective gear while dealing with stranded passengers. (Photo: AFP/Ted ALJIBE)

MANILA: The Philippines will ban travellers from 19 countries and territories until mid-January as a measure to keep out a new variant of the coronavirus, its transport ministry said on Tuesday (Dec 29).

The regulation will be in effect from midnight of Dec 29 to Jan 15 and covers Filipinos and foreigners arriving from the "flagged countries", the transport ministry told reporters in a group text message.

READ: Commentary: The Philippines is still struggling to get a handle on COVID-19

The Philippines previously imposed and later extended a flight ban from Britain until mid-January as the more contagious variant of the COVID-19 virus was first detected in England.

The new variant, which British scientists have called VUI - 202012/01, has renewed fears about the virus that has killed over 1.7 million people worldwide.

The flagged countries include France, Australia, Canada, Germany, South Africa, Singapore and Japan.

With more than 470,000 infections and 9,124 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases and casualties in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.

The new variant has not been detected in the Philippines.

Philippine health officials said the travel ban could be expanded to include more countries should those report the presence of the new COVID-19 variant.

READ: Philippines prolongs partial COVID-19 curbs in Manila to Jan 31

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday extended partial coronavirus restrictions in the capital of Manila until the end of January to prevent the spread of COVID-19 following Christmas and holiday festivities.

The capital region, which accounts for 40 per cent of the country's economic output and is home to at least 12 million people, remains the COVID-19 hotspot in the Philippines, which has the second highest infections and deaths in Southeast Asia.

In a national address, Duterte placed the capital region, his hometown Davao City and eight other areas under partial quarantine measures for the entirety of January. Less stringent restrictions will be enforced for the rest of the country.

"Stay home if it is really possible, if you can. It is for your own good," Duterte said.

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Source: Reuters/mi


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